When the Storms Come

August 29, 2011

This weekend, we watched as Hurricane Irene sashayed up the East Coast, killing 21, flooding cities all the way up into Canada and leaving millions without power—and her effects were not as bad as feared!

Since we live in Florida’s Tampa Bay area, we’re intimately familiar with hurricanes. Though we’ve been spared the past few years, in 2004 and 2005, eight hurricanes blew through here. Our home was undamaged, but we lost electricity several times, an uncomfortable situation in sticky August. I learned how important being prepared could be, and after struggling along with candles and flashlights, I finally bought battery-operated lamps, and fans to help us keep from getting too hot. Now every year at the end of May, I pull out my list of recommended items to have on hand: water, canned and packaged food, first aid supplies, medications, pet food, and so on. I remind myself that this year could be the year we get a direct hit and not to get complacent.

It occurred to me that in the same manner I prepare for physical storms, I could also prepare for emotional storms that come my way. Just as I stock up on water and food and batteries, I could “stock up” on things that soothe me when I’m angry, sad or just emotionally overwhelmed.

The key to hurricane preparedness is to make ongoing preparations, not wait until a storm is bearing down on you. You don’t want to go to the grocery store and find the shelves bare, do you? Just so, the time to prepare for an emotional hurricane is before the winds begin to pick up and the rain pours. Here are some things in my emotional hurricane kit:

Affirmations and inspiring quotes written on 3 x 5 cards. I look through these during times of emotional upheaval. One example: “We insist that we can’t possibly be happy until tomorrow, when things change. But if happiness is possible tomorrow, it is possible today. If love is possible tomorrow, it is possible today. We can find healing even if nothing changes” (quoted from Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living, by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler).

Something funny and light to read at bedtime. I’m currently reading The Provincial Lady in London, by E.M. Delafield. I find her mild, dry humor very soothing and perfect for bedtime. I also love Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself, Dave Barry’s compilations of columns, and even the occasional Baby Blues comic collection. I’d rather go to sleep laughing than crying, wouldn’t you?

“Quiet time” every morning. Every day, I spend a half hour or so reading inspirational or spiritual material in an effort to begin my day with right thinking and emotional health. I also write morning pages, a practice described by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. I feel morning pages help both to clear out my brain of non-essentials and jump start my creative thinking. I do believe in something larger than myself, whether you call it God or the Universe or some other man-made term, so I often express gratitude and ask for inspiration.

Keeping physical needs met. I’ve learned that to avoid unnecessary emotional storms, I should get enough rest, exercise regularly, eat as healthy as possible and not overschedule myself. Becoming a martyr and not caring for myself properly is just asking for a storm.

When all else fails: good chocolate! I know it’s best not to comfort myself with food. However. I find the dark, rich stuff is satisfying in small amounts and if I tuck it away where I don’t see it constantly, I don’t eat too much, and it’s there when a little bit of sweetness is most welcome.

Despite the damage and suffering, which I do not wish to make light of in any way, people seemed mostly prepared for Hurricane Irene and took appropriate precautions, probably saving many lives. Unlike a literal hurricane which can be identified and tracked long before it reaches land, you never know when an emotional storm will blow through. That’s all the more reason to nourish yourself spiritually, emotionally and physically every day so you can be ready when the storms come.

How do you prepare for and weather the emotional storms of life?

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  1. Good suggestions Kathy - especially the chocolate :) . I have to admit I've never thought about being emotionally prepared, so you've given me some good food for thought (as you so often do with your writing).

  2. Thanks, Cheryl. Guess we don't have to be Boy Scouts to be prepared! (And a chocolate stash is always a good idea.)

  3. I try to take care of my self and that means a little candy here and there but mostly, I get through emotional storms by knowing they pass. I've been through enough of them to know they do and I remind myself of that when I am feeling down or upset.

  4. Great point, Timaree--it's good to remember "This, too, shall pass" when storms come.

  5. Happily hurricanes are something we don't get in Nebraska though we've had excessive rain and flooding this year. It's been a crazy weather year, hasn't it? I like your idea of an emotional hurricane kit--especially the Provincial Lady and chocolate! :)

  6. Hi Kathy,

    I'm glad that you guys are okay, and I enjoyed this post very much. You have given us great advice, and it was good for me to go down the checklist and compare if I was doing something similar or could incorporate it, and for the most part I am.

    Sure would love to see your other list sometime too. I know what agencies suggest, but just like going on a trip where I always over pack, I wonder what you put into your emergency supply kit?

    Have an awesome week, and God bless.

    Kathy M.

  7. Danielle--yes, it has been a crazy weather year. We still have three more months of hurricane season, so keep your fingers crossed for us. And yes,chocolate and Provincial Lady definitely help most situations!

  8. Kathy--Thanks so much for your concern. We still have three more months of hurricane season, so hopefully we'll keep getting bypassed.

    I've probably "overpacked" too--I try to have plenty of water on hand, some canned goods, cereal, pastas, coffee, tea, nuts, granola bars, Gatorade, dog food... I don't really know if I have the right amount or the right things, because we've been lucky enough not to ever have to use our stash. It just gets rotated into the regular meals, or donated to a local food bank.